I'm often asked, "When did you become a Republican?" And my answer is the same every time: "I've always been one!"
My mother gave birth to me when she was 16 years old, and we received government assistance during the first few years of my life. When I was growing up, she taught me the importance of making a budget and living by it. In our home I learned the importance of having a plan and delaying gratification for the things I wanted or thought I deserved. It meant generic brands instead of name brands and buying what I needed, rather than what I may have wanted. It meant living more conservatively.
Although she had me at a young age and knew there would be struggles ahead, my mother chose life. For that I am forever grateful to her.
Given my background, I may be what some would view as an unlikely Republican. But I firmly believe in the ability of conservative principles and values to empower people to live better lives.
I am humbled to be able to honor my mother, having been selected for recognition as one of the newest "Rising Stars" of the Republican Party. The Rising Star initiative is a strong, concerted effort by our party to engage and listen to the next generation of leadership. And it's clear to me, in this new role, that the Republican National Committee is listening to new voices that often make up the young, silent majority.
We believe in keeping more money in our own pockets so that we can afford the things we need, especially when times are hard. We believe in a less intrusive government that doesn't get in the way of us living out our dreams. We believe in entrepreneurship and innovation. We also believe in protecting the lives of the unborn. And when those babies grow into young children, we believe in providing them with the best education possible—and that parents, not government, should make those choices for their children.
And because the future of our country depends upon it, we believe that the voices of young people need to be heard, not just in future elections but in the important debates concerning these and many other issues.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is lighting a path for young voters of all demographics, and his leadership is a clarion call to young African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, college students and women. He has brought us to the table. He believes in our ideas, and he is providing the resources for successful outcomes in future elections.
He, and I, believe that the future of the Republican Party is filled with Rising Stars.
(Chelsi P. Henry is a RNC Rising Star and an environmental-policy adviser. She was the youngest elected woman in Jacksonville, Fla.'s history, serving for three years as supervisor of Soil and Water Conservation District Group 5. Follow her on Twitter.)